Moods: Playing with the Elements
Robert D. Rusch - 10/21/04
Moods. The material on this recording followed the completion of The Sugar Hill Suite (CIMP 320), recorded the previous day. That was a near flawless encounter, unhurriedly laid out over a 12-hour period. It was one of those occasions where everything just fell into place and even left time for a full night's rest, for we all went to bed prior to midnight. The next morning Dominic Duval (1944, NYC, NY), Jay Rosen (1961, Phila., PA), and Joe McPhee (1939, Miami, FL) appeared, as if on cue, around 9 a.m. Yet it was apparent to me that the endorphin joy of the previous day's recording had run its course and now the trio seemed a bit remote and preoccupied with new foci. There was no need for Trio-X to record; our mission had been gloriously accomplished the day before on CIMP 320, and I said to them that, as far as my objective was concerned, it had been met and if the spirit was somewhere else there was no need to try other things. We could just call it a day and hang out. But the mood was not antithetical to creativity and, indeed, around noon with nary a word we gathered in The Spirit Room and began making music.
The group opened with Sienna Sun, a classic brooding McPhee type line and rather reflective of the mood. This was followed up by Wegatchie Run, which obviously served as a release of sorts as evidenced at its conclusion by the slight chuckling from, and the removing of outer shirts by, some of the trio.
Following Wegatchie Run, Joe said he thought he was ready for the flugelhorn (an instrument that lay at the ready from the day before, but, other than a sound check and some jamming, had not had formal introduction over the 2 days of recording) the resultant Burning Wood took shape with Joe playing both the tenor and the flugel. Inspired, Dominic then took a solo, Dedicated to You, Joe. Following that came Stella, illustrating, as Joe stated at its conclusion "Who knows where the road will lead." For In Evidence, Joe utilized the Spirit Room pocket trumpet, an instrument that hangs on The Spirit Room wall and which many musicians have played but few have used on a recording. The group had tried In Evidence earlier with Joe playing flugelhorn; he switched to the pocket trumpet for its greater bite.
After some discussion, the group followed with Lonely Woman, a piece that had been considered but not attempted the day before. The approach here - clearly Ayleresque - was developed after discarding a number of other interpretive directions. At its conclusion, Dominic declared his satisfaction, adding "Short, sweet, and to the point."
Short Eyes was an extemporization off of Joe idly tapping his sax keys, to which Jay then juxtaposed rhythms on the rims, off which Dominic played.
Short Eyes acted as another release and the trio was off on one of those extended improvs at which they are so adept. Or so I thought. Instead they returned to the rhythm pulse and brought it playfully to an end. Mood and timing.
After a 6 hour break, we once again regrouped and opened with Legacy (Celebrating Bill Dixon's October Revolution of 1964), a tone poem in tribute to Bill Dixon, at times evoking the sound of Bill but with a very different use of space. Also from the evening sessions came Voices, a McPhee standard from the mid 1970s, and a reminder, in hindsight, of how clearly defined much of the McPhee style was even in his (relative) youth.
We finished up this date the next day with A Valentine in the Fog of War, a heralding excursion but this valentine is quite different from the reflective mood of Sienna Sun of 24 hours earlier.
As I stated at the beginning, there was no prior mandate to make this recording and, even once begun, there was no commitment on anyone's part that a satisfactory conclusion would be met. In fact, I firmly believe a day or 2 of recording does not a worthy release make nor do I believe that every emotional or "creative" toot recorded need be released. This genre, while an expression of the self, is only successful, past the self, if it integrates with the group in expression and is meaningful on some level to the listener. The marketplace is littered with self-expression that is inchoate, self-indulgent, and has little transference to receivers. This is not the case here/hear. What the circumstances suggest to me is that Trio-X continued to be on a roll from the day before and its musicality reigned as an interpretation of the ambient situation. What my ears suggest to me is that this is complete and compelling music with good detail, and a broad new reach. There's a lot of music here, though not particularly thematic past musical statement artistically presented. Trio-X is that good.
Trio X, Moods: Playing with the Elements (CIMP)
Dan Rose 19 December 2005
I had the pleasure of catching Joe McPhee in a solo gig at an old Atlanta church. I can still see stained glass when I hear him play. McPhee is a veteran and both victor and victim in the free jazz scene. Years of quiet (the guy was taking care of his parents, for heaven's sake) followed by a recent (OK, a decade may not be recent) spate of recordings have put the man back on the creative map. Here he's joined by one of the most dynamic rhythm sections in the free jazz spheres: Jay Rosen on drums and Dominic Duval on bass. These two, though having walked fewer miles than McPhee, have tread through some of the most important sessions of the last decade.
There's an austerity, a bare skeleton and openness inherent in a trio date. To swim in this sparity with any success requires skill in the use of space. Snarky sibilance aside, you have to be good to really speak in a trio setting. There's also a necessary intimacy among the three players. The three have to speak to each other before there's any communication to the listener. McPhee, Rosen, and Duval have much to say to each other and those lucky enough to hear what they're playing.
The CD begins with a spiritual. McPhee makes prayer with his tenor while Duval bows his bass and Rosen taps sparingly. The music seethes with a yearning for peace, the quiet of heaven. The music that follows shatters any sense of peace, cutting the air with a hard scrabble, hectoring sound. In these two tunes there's a whole universe of feeling covered. It sets the pace for the entire program, laying to plastic a blueprint for emotional and musical extremes.
Feelings and emotions are the key. This is, track by track, a plumbing of the depths and extremes of expression. Take for instance the cover of Ornette's "Lonely Woman". Here it's transformed from dirge to slow funeral march with McPhee adding a near Ayler-esque vibrato over Duval's moaning bass bowing and Rosen's turbulent, tidal cymbal work. They make it their own and put to sound an agitated sadness that would do any existentialist proud.
There's a wonderful connection to tradition, both in free jazz and the more conservative jazz corners. On "Short Eyes", McPhee blows an aching blues tenor while Rosen does a spare, dancing beat and Duval turns his bass into complementary percussion. It's a tension of past and present, of structure and freedom. Throughout the disc, this tension is palpable and creatively so.
Of special note is McPhee's multi-instrumentalism. Whether on tenor, flugelhorn, or trumpet, he exudes a distinct voice, many tongues. McPhee favors a bluesy tone or a wavering squeal on the tenor. On trumpet and flugelhorn, there's a blurry, smearing tone. Though it's the same brain behind every horn, the effect is of different men, a speaking in tongues without the jumping of pews.
This is a beautiful, intimate recording of a trio of masters. The key is feeling. Each of the three express with a ferocity and clarity that, even in the quiet moments, takes a breath or two off and away. Space, emotion, and creative attention abide in every moment on this disc.